my interview with mat lalonde

 I had the pleasure of hearing Mat Lalonde speak in Ottawa this past March at his nutrition seminar.  Since then, we have kept in touch through email.  It was finally great to “actually meet him” and have the opportunity to pick his brain and attend his seminar a second time, in Toronto. (highly recommend that btw!)  A truly inspiring individual.  It is rare in this day and age to meet someone who so honestly “practices what they preach”.  In his case, it couldn’t be more genuine or apparent.

Saturday, June 5th, 2010

Interviewed by: Cindy Sexton- also, you can join my PALEOdISH page on Facebook.

The first part of the day at the Academy of Lions  flew by so fast.  It was already lunch.  Mat came over to me after he was finished with the first part of the day and we decided to have our little interview while sitting on the box jump boxes. 

Me: Thank you so much for giving me the time to ask you some questions.  I really appreciate it!

Mat: No problem.

Me: This music sounds like “porn music”!

Mat: Ya, it does…porn music with a little bass in the background.

Both laugh.

Me: Okay…let’s get started!

Describe your credentials— background, current ventures, future direction…

Mat: I obtained my BSc with a concentration in chemistry from the University of Ottawa. I spent the summer of 2000 working for Boehringer-Ingelheim and the summer of 2001 for Merck-Frosst as an intern.

I obtained my PhD in organic chemistry from the department of chemistry and chemical biology at Harvard University.

I’m currently a postdoctoral fellow in an inorganic chemistry lab at Harvard.

 Me: What has driven your career in nutrition?

Mat: I had and still have a desire to understand how nutrition affects health and how the inner body really works.  I also have a strong desire to help people.

 Me: What would you tell someone just getting started with Paleo?

Mat: Hang in there! Haha…Basically, I would tell them to stay on the bandwagon for at least 30 days, to see how they look, feel and perform.  I guarantee that so many positive changes will be present even in that amount of time.

Me: Do you currently train or offer nutritional counselling to people as a service?

Mat: No, technically and legally I am not allowed because I am a scientist, not a dietitian or a “doctor” per se.

Me: That blows my mind…but that is another story.

Me: What are your thoughts on taking supplements and vitamins?

Mat: In my opinion, multi-vitamins are totally useless.  Vitamin D3 is useful for those of us not getting enough sunshine. In other words almost every body. If you live a solid lifestyle, then you really shouldn’t require any vitamins.  Also, if your diet is in “check”, then there is really no need to supplement!

Me: Who is your “idol” in the world of science/nutrition?

Me: Don’t say Robb Wolf …giggles (just kidding Robb!)

Mat: Ya, ya, then pauses and chuckles…Robb! (grins with admiration).  Also, in the world of science I admire the work of this scientist by the name of Alessio Fasano, who studies topics surrounding autoimmune diseases and “leaky gut”. 

Me: I believe it.  Your explanation of “leaky gut” was so clear and explained so well when I first saw you at the seminar in Ottawa.  You gave such a concise picture of what this whole concept is. 

Me: Who has had the most significant influence on you in your life and why?

Mat: Hmmm…great question.  Let me think about that (pauses as he gazes across the gym) Wow! Tough one…you know what, I would have to say it was my college advisor Dr. Tony Durst. Tony took me under his wing and believed in me. He encouraged me to excel and push the limits of what I could do. He was the one that encouraged me to work for the pharmaceutical industry during the summer of 2000 and 2001 and he insisted that I study abroad in a graduate chemistry program. He was a truly wonderful mentor at an important time in my life and I owe him a debt of gratitude.

Me: What are your views on cheat meals? 

Mat: A cheat meal will not kill you from time to time, especially if you exercise regularly and follow a low-carb approach in your diet.  I mean a “cheat meal”,  not going on a full on bender or having a complete cheat day.  Choose your cheats wisely, make them gluten-free, hit them hard to make sure they satisfy, and then get back on the pony the next day.

Me: Describe some of your ideas for post-WOD snacks or meals?

Mat: I would suggest having something with glucose in it, such as tubers.  Sweet potatoes work great in these instances. Eating post-WOD actually lowers cortisol levels.  Keep the snacks fairly small and tailor them to the workout. Throw in some carbohydrate for glycogen replenishment post metcon, but stick to protein and fat after strength work.

Me: What time frame would you say when eating post-WOD?

 Mat: I would recommend having your post-WOD food within an hour after the workout.  Within 30 minutes or less would be ideal. 

Me: You must travel quite a bit.  What are some of your ideas for “Paleo-on-the-go” type meals?

Mat: Ugh, I don’t eat!

Me: What do you mean?

Mat: I fast usually a lot of the time when on the road.  I may have a breakfast in the morning when I wake up, eat nothing really in between (during the day), and then have a dinner early in the evening.  Even when I am flying to different places, I never eat airplane food…ever!

Me: Ugh, I know me too!

Mat: When I know I am going to be travelling or out of town, I also like to take Paleo Kits  with me too.

Me: What is your stance/opinion on the association between an increase in protein and risk of kidney stones etc…myth or does it hold any truth?

Mat: Totally incorrect!  Kidney stones are actually due to an increase in calcium and dairy into your diet.  It’s actually those “low carb- Atkins” diets that are heavy in dairy that can cause it, so really there isn’t a direct link or cause and effect between an increase in protein and kidney stones.  It’s the calcium in the dairy!  Protein has no adverse effects on the kidneys. It’s a myth that will not die. 

Me: What nutritional advice would you offer athletes/people who are trying to “lean” vs. “gain”?

Mat: Well there are several factors that need to be considered here.  Several questions come into mind.  What kind of athlete are they?  What is their metabolic state (derangement)?  How is their tolerance to carbs?  Are they fat adapted?  In a nutshell, someone looking to lean out should lower their carbs to 10%, for 3 weeks or so and stay slightly hypocaloric. Low intensity work can be high in volume, but high intensity exercise must be low-volume. Make your metcons really short (5 minutes or less). Put on a weighted vest and go take a walk or a hike. Get plenty of sleep and eliminate stress from your life. Once the desired amount of weight is lost, you can increase the amount of carbohydrate. If you are sedentary, I’d say no more than 20% of calories from low-fructose foods (mostly veggies). If you are a powerlifter or Olympic weightlifter, then I’d recommend either ketogenic or cyclic low-carb. If you are a CrossFitter, then I’d recommend carbohydrate post metcon, but not post strength WOD. There is no need to go above 40% of calories from carbohydrate as a CrossFitter. Endurance athletes may need up to 50-60% of calories from carbohydrate. Get that stuff from starchy vegetables and tubers, as opposed to tons of fruit (a few serving a day is fine here).  On the other hand, if someone is trying to gain mass, then they should eat ad libitum Paleo/Ketogenic and lift heavy weights. 

Me: What are your thoughts on “hard” vs. “easy” gainers?  (Endomorphs vs. mesomorphs)

Mat: Well to start, there is a huge difference in insulin sensitivity.  Hard gainers have muscle tissue that is slightly more insulin resistant than that of the average individual, whereas easy gainers have more insulin sensitive muscle tissue.  Hard gainers would probably benefit from a low-carb, perhaps ketogenic, hypercaloric diet. Easy gainers are well…easy gainers.

Me: Describe any special recommendations that you would provide for pregnant/nursing women, children, menopausal women etc…?

Mat: I always feel bad giving advice to pregnant mothers. As a dude, the only part I play in conception is ejaculation, which really isn’t all that hard. I always get the feelings that mothers listen to me and think “easy for you to say”. Would you be surprised if I recommend eating a strict “Paleo” diet?!?  There is plenty of folic acid in veggies, but I have no objections to supplementation. I would highly encourage not only these groups of people, but people in general to get their Omega 3 and 6 ratios in order.  Also, after women have given birth, I would recommend (if possible), that they breast feed their baby for as long as they can…one year minimum. As an incentive, breast-feeding is great for melting off accumulated fat during pregnancy. Pumping the milk all the time and feeding it to the baby in a bottle is not always a good idea, it has been shown that the composition of the milk changes during the day. The concentration of a specific compound increases in the milk just before night time and this helps put the child to sleep. Children also start with a blank slate as far as gut flora is concerned. Breast milk contains a pro-biotic (good bacteria) that helps populate the flora of the child. This will result in a healthier child that is more resilient to disease.

Me: How might you advise someone about the recovery process who has just competed in the CrossFit Games or a major endurance event?  Would this differ?

Mat: Well it’s so important that both take time off afterwards.  I would say take up to 1 1/2 weeks off. 

Me:  I think I a lot of athletes have a hard time doing this.

Mat: Totally, but your body needs the rest.  I would also advise laying off the metcons for awhile, but try to maintain strength. Strength is easily lost and takes time to build. Metabolic conditioning is also easily lost, but can be regained much more readily.

Rapid fire questions to end off the interview…

  •  BACON- yes or no? Hell ya!!!  Thank god! 
  •  Best fat source? Saturated animal fat
  • Most satisfying cheat? Ice cream…it’s my only cheat.  I make my own coconut ice cream. 
  • Book you would most recommend? The Vegetarian Myth, by Lierre Keith
  • Best nuts?  Raw, unsalted cashews or macadamia nuts
  • Paleo in one word? Umm, Paleo is one word!  LOL…smart ass!
  • Fav meal?  Meat
  • Fav WOD? Thrusters @ 135 # – 10-8-6-4-2 and Double Unders- 50-40-30-20-10  for time
  • P.O.P- percentage on Paleo?  100 %
  • Boxers or briefs?  (haha…for all the ladies)  Both!  Right now boxers though…laughs.  

Me: Thank you so much Mat!

Mat: You’re welcome!

And with a couple minutes to spare, a pee break and a sip of water,  Mat was back at it again for the rest of the afternoon sharing his knowledge with a room full of eager listeners!


Harvard University, Cambridge MA

knowledge is power…

I have always been interested in nutrition, but this has snowballed over the past year.  One of my mottos  is “knowledge is power”.  In my thirties, I have come to realize the importance of seizing each opportunity.  Take advantage…don’t let them pass you by. 

This brings me to October 2009, when Robb Wolf came to CrossFit Toronto to do a nutrition seminar.  When this was announced, I was completely giddy and totally stoked, as I had heard so many fabulous reviews in response to his  presentations.  So without hesitation, I decided to sign-up pronto.  As many of you know, the world of science and nutrition is vast.  Taking part in this experience was beyond sensational and the content taught was extremely rich.  Robb’s charismatic nature and awesome sense of humour were an added bonus as well! There was so much new information to digest (haha), that I can distinctly remember jotting down notes like a “mad woman”, as I wanted to make sure I could create meaning for myself after the day was through.  This seminar was super helpful in making me realize that eating food shouldn’t just be about eating food- and that you really have to view it as “fuel for your body.”  When you are able to change to this mindset, a clearer picture appears as to what you are really putting in your mouth and how your body is responding!

Spend 1 day with Robb Wolf learning the art and science of performance nutrition. The day will include lecture and theory of performance eating, recovery and optimizing health and longevity. Significant emphasis will be placed on the PRACTICAL implementation of Paleo nutritional concepts to support fat loss, muscle gain and improve athletic performance. Attendees will be exposed to basic pathophysiology related to metabolic diseases such as Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s and infertility. Additionally, attendees will receive a mechanistic understanding of autoimmunity and systemic inflammation and how these processes impact performance, health and longevity. A basic science background is helpful but not necessary for this seminar.

My “take-aways” from Robb’s seminar:

  • gluten is BAD news- “neolithic foods- where all the problems begin” (they play havoc on your system!)
  • insulin modifies EVERYTHING!
  • encourage anyone who wants to look, feel and perform better to try eating Paleo for a month to see results! (they will!) 

robb wolf's nutrition seminar

More recently, I attended a nutrition seminar that was put on by Mathieu Lalonde, in Ottawa  in March 2010.  The focus was very scientific, research-based and  intensely intriguing.  His knowledge base and educational background surrounding bio-chemistry and nutrition is beyond words.  I felt as though I wanted to take his brain and just insert it right into my noggin! (not really…but kinda)

I sat there listening attentively, trying to soak in all I could, literally as if I were a sponge.  Mathieu had so much to share, as he moved through his fascinating slide presentation, in exceptional depth. With confidence and assertion, he was able to answer attendee questions in great detail, but also in a way that was simple and clear for all to understand.

Spend a day exploring the science of nutrition with Mathieu Lalonde, Ph.D. The seminar will delve into the dietary factors involved in the development of the metabolic syndrome and autoimmune diseases as well as the science behind paleolithic nutrition, post-workout meals and intermittent fasting. The material will be supplemented with direct references to, and critical analyses of, the primary scientific literature on the subject of nutrition. Participants should leave the event with the knowledge required to eat for optimum health and performance as well as the ability to decipher the primary literature in order to further augment their knowledge of nutrition and defend their nutritional choices.

My “take aways” from Mathieu’s seminar:

  • a vivid illustration of “leaky gut”- great visual demonstration (made SO much sense!)
  • a strong reminder that we MUST think critically and question research studies (who is the source and what type of study was conducted?)
  • a personal explanation of how intermittent fasting works- I may try this sometime soon!?!

mat lalonde - harvard scientist

I would highly recommend attending and listening to both of these speakers if the situation arises in your area.  On each occasion, there was SO much to cover in a single day.  However, the fantastic reality of it all is that I was able to take away so many key points that offer a tremendous insight on how to be an advocate for your own health and well-being.  EMPOWER YOURSELF!!!  If you don’t take control…who will?

Lastly, I will leave you with a couple quick breakfast ideas sent to me by both gentlemen…

Robb’s Quick Breakfast Curry

  • 1/4-1/2 can of coconut milk
  • 1/2 pound grass-fed ground beef
  • veggies (assorted)
  • curry powder and garam masala to taste

Everything goes in a pot, cover and cook for 5-10 minutes.  EAT with a dark shirt to hide curry stains!!!

Mathieu’s Mango Shake

 I make the shake below when I feel like I need to fill the tank (usually once per month depending on the training).

  • 1 1/2 cups of frozen mango chunks
  • 1 can of coconut milk
  • orange juice

Combine the mango and coconut milk in a blender until smooth. Add orange juice to adjust texture. Enjoy!

 A special thank you to both Robb Wolf and Mathieu Lalonde for your insights and contributions!